BARAGA, L'ANSE - For most competitions, when L'Anse and Baraga meet, it's all about the rivalry, but for this week's 119th annual U.P. Firefighter's Tournament, the rivals united for their mutual benefit.
The two village fire departments, each with about 20 members, have been working together for about a year and a half to prepare to welcome about 50 fire departments and an estimated couple thousand people for three days of friendly competition.
"We were scared to take it, but I'm glad we did," said L'Anse Fire Chief Mike Bianco during an intermission between tournament races Friday afternoon at L'Anse Waterfront Park. "I'm glad it was L'Anse and Baraga, because it's so hard with just one team. ... It takes a long time to put together, and the last few days is when it really comes down to crunch time, and it all came together."
Daily Mining Gazette/Stephen Anderson
Fire trucks from the Baraga and L’Anse Fire Departments, left to right respectively, share the street during the Dress Parade at the U.P. Firefighter’s Tournament Thursday in L’Anse. Although traditional rivals, L’Anse and Baraga have been working together for a year to host this year’s tourney, bringing fire departments from throughout the U.P. to Baraga County.
With two days in the books, it's come together so far, with both sides of Keweenaw Bay getting their fair share of the action. Thursday night featured the dress parade in L'Anse and the Shirt Tail Parade and street dance in Baraga. Friday featured the tournament races in L'Anse and the firefighters ball in Baraga. Overall tournament results will not be finalized until after today's 10 a.m. commercial parade in L'Anse.
"For L'Anse it's good because there hasn't been anything big in L'Anse in quite a while," Bianco said. "I think the town is pretty happy we did take the tournament. With the sidewalk sales and everything in town, it's working out pretty good."
The Baraga County Chamber of Commerce and Village of L'Anse decided to encourage local businesses to offer sidewalk sales Friday during the tournament races, and along with food and beverage vendors, there was plenty for tournament attendees and participants alike to enjoy.
"So far the tournament has been great," said Ken Summers, owner of The Mercantile Exchange, Inc., on the corner of Main and Broad streets. "There's a great influx of people in town that aren't normally here. We probably had the most traffic through our store since we've been open."
Hotels on both sides of the bay were packed, and Baraga State Park was up from its typical 60 percent capacity to about 80 percent, according to a rough estimate from BSP Supervisor Dan Dowdy.
"It's definitely up for this weekend," he said. "It sounds like it's a good tournament, and there's lot of departments represented in the park here."
For more information about the tournament, visit uptourney.baragafiredepartment.org, and for full results from the tournament races and overall competition, see Monday's Daily Mining Gazette.